FAQ: What’s the difference between snowshoes and crampons?

Snowshoes and crampons are each designed to help you travel more safely and efficiently in winter conditions, but they’re meant for different types of terrain.

snowshoes vs crampons - MSR blog

With their large surface area, snowshoes are designed to keep you afloat in the snow, preventing you from sinking in and expending a bunch of energy. In contrast, boot crampons are designed for traction on icy, steep and low-snow terrain.

Photo by Simon Steinberger

In winter travel, you will often come across a mix of snow and ice. Because of this, MSR has designed our snowshoes to maximize traction for grip in the icier sections of snow travel, all while keeping you on top of the snow. This makes MSR snowshoes a great choice for a range of conditions.

The time to choose boot crampons is when you are traveling on terrain that is sustained ice, or on slopes that exceed ~38 degrees. Boot crampons feature far more aggressive traction points.

Photo by Scott Rinckenberger

Once back in light or deep snow, you will want to switch to snowshoes again, as too much snow can pack in under the crampons and the teeth won’t be able to dig in, resulting in slipping.